Some players have spent a major part of their NFL careers underachieving and in some cases the team’s patience as well as the fans is waring thin. We have listed five such players and the reasons why they will open the season on the ‘Hot Seat’. It will not mean that they WILL live up to their potential, it just means that they have less excuses for failing to do so.
1. Christian Ponder-QB-Vikings– Give the Vikings credit as they went out and made some significant moves to shore up their offense in the off-season. They added ex-Packer WR Greg Jennings who they probably overpaid for, who will replace the disgruntled but talented receiver Percy Harvin. By giving up multiple picks (4) to the Patriots they selected Cordarrelle Patterson WR out of Tennessee in the first round. Then there is TE Kyle Rudolph, a rising star at tight end and Ponder’s favorite target. Now combine this array of talent with arguably the best running back in all of football, and an offensive line that had the same five players start all 17 games last year, and there is little reason to ponder why Ponder should not excel this season.
2. Tony Romo-QB-Cowboys- Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones took a lot of flack when he gave Romo a six year $108 million contract extension and you know he wants to see a huge return on his investment. What owner doesn’t? The Cowboys needed to revamp their offensive line which was no help to Romo who was sacked a career high-tying 36 times last season. So with their first pick in the draft they selected C Travis Frederick to better secure the middle, and they feel very good about LT Tyron Smith. The O-Line will also be entering its second season with coach Bill Callahan which won’t hurt. As DeMarco Murray always seems to have health concerns, the Cowboys selected their No. 2 back in the fifth round, Joseph Randle who is a similar style runner to Murray. The turnover-happy Romo who seems to make the worst decisions when the game means the most (he only has one career playoff win), needs this season to prove to his doubters and Mr. Jones that his extension was well worth the money.
3. DeSean Jackson-WR-Eagles- There was a time not too long ago when DeSean Jackson was considered on of the league’s most dangerous receivers but he has only regressed over the past couple of seasons. In 2009-’10 he had 40 catches of 20 yards or more and 18 of 40 yards or more. Over the last two years he has had 24 and 7. Jackson has only seven touchdown catches and five 100-yard receiving games in his last 33 starts. The Eagles will need Jackson to produce even more now as their other wideout, Jeremy Maclin, has already had season-ending surgery to repair his torn right ACL. If Jackson does not get back on track, he could be gone after this season as most of his guaranteed money in his contract was in the first 2 years.
4. Jermichael Finley-TE-Packers- Finley really turned it on after the bye-week last season and that performance probably saved himself his job and his $8.25 million salary. In 2009, he looked like a super-stud in the making especially in the playoffs that year. Then in 2010 he suffered from a knee-cartilage injury which either he never fully recovered from or just had a bad case of the ‘dropsies for all of 2011 and much of last season. Finley woke up towards the end of last season so he should be over his pedestrian play, but he needs to continue performing this year as the team will spend its first in the last seven without veteran WR Greg Jennings.
5. Jay Cutler-QB-Bears- Cutler’s resume shows that in his seven seasons he only has made the playoffs once with one playoff victory on his ledger. He has never reached the potential that the Bears felt he had when they gave him a five-year $49.8 million contact which is now entering its last year. The excuses have been that he didn’t have the weapons or the adequate protection necessary to take Chicago to that ‘next level’. Well now he does. The Bears added two Pro Bowlers to help with blind-side protection. Former Saint Jermon Bushrod and former Jets standout Matt Slauson. With a first round pick they also selected Howie Long’s son Kyle. On offense a major addition was TE Martellus Bennett who was just starting to come into his own with the Giants last year, and whose stock is on the rise. They also have a proven WR in Brandon Marshall who they got last year and so Cutler’s job this season is to take the Bears on a deep playoff run or Cutler could be ‘run’ out of Chicago.